Research: Testosterone makes you see through black-colored glasses

Poster "Gender Polymorphisms, Visual Pathway, and Color Preferences in Chinese Women"

Derval Color Test

New research points out that prenatal testosterone might make people more sensitive to black and white, and to contrast, than to colors.

Individuals more exposed to prenatal testosterone have an M-pathway dominated by rods and are attracted to contrast over colors”
— Prof. Diana Derval, PhD
SHANGHAI, CHINA, July 9, 2021 / -- Color preferences were thought to be cultural or psychological but new research links them to our hormonal makeup. The findings presented at the 25th Annual Meeting of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology investigated how women influenced by prenatal testosterone were more attracted to contrast than to colors.

81 women participated in the research throughout main Chinese cities, and physiological information like their vision (nearsightedness or farsightedness) and the influence of prenatal hormones, were collected with non-invasive measurement techniques. Subjects were presented with the Derval Color Test (you might be familiar with it, as it went viral on social media) containing 39 color nuances with separation lines between the different colors, and in four locations, an extra line separating a repetition of the same color. Subjects indicated how many, and which ones of the colors nuances they were able to see, as well as their color preferences.

Most women were able to distinguish between 17 and 39 color nuances, but surprisingly, some counted more than 39. These women, more influenced by prenatal testosterone, tended to see more than 39 color nuances as they counted the separation lines instead of the actual colors. Prof. Derval, PhD, Chair of DervalResearch代戈, who led the research team explains “Individuals perceive colors with their cone receptors and contrast with their rod receptors. Information from both types of receptors are encoded in the same channel, the visual M-Pathway. And it seems that individuals more exposed to prenatal testosterone have an M-pathway dominated by rods and are attracted to contrast over colors”.

So testosterone literally makes you see life through black-colored glasses, and this could explain why so many fashion and cosmetics brands (Chanel, Sephora, Génifique by Lancôme), targeting powerful women, display black and white brand codes, with a pop of color. This is one of the many insights shared in The Science of Colors online course presented by Springer Nature and DervalResearch, as well as in the second edition of Prof. Derval’s reference book “The Right Sensory Mix: Decoding Customers’ Behavior and Preferences”. This deeper understanding of color preferences will help adapt sensory experiences to each geographical area. Applications range from fashion, to electronics, automotive, hospitality, entertainment, and cosmetics.

Reference: Derval, D. (2021, July). Gender Polymorphisms, Visual Pathway, and Color Perception in Chinese Women. SBN 2021, 25th Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Annual Meeting, online.

Prof. Diana Derval, PhD
email us here
+372 602 7208
Visit us on social media: